Happy Christmas feeling like a tall order? Tips for coping with complicated feelings in the holidays

christmas border with text saying 'ho ho ho...help!

Not everyone has the picture perfect Christmas scenario to head home to at the end of term, and for students from other faith backgrounds and cultural traditions, it might all feel a bit much anyway! Here are some survival tips for the highs and lows of your vacation.

Perhaps you love Christmas and all the traditions, from music to present wrapping to treats, but if it brings up difficult memories or makes you feel anxious, you aren’t alone in that feeling. The forthcoming holiday can cause a mixture of complicated situations and emotions, such as family and relationship conflict, anxiety around relationships, worries about food, coping with grief, or feeling that everyone else is having a great time and you’re missing out. Even if you look forward to the holidays, it’s normal to experience periods of stress or difficulty, when your environment changes after a term studying.

We asked Rachel and Tilly, two Mental Health Advisers at Kent’s Student Support and Wellbeing who offer specialist support to care leavers and students who are estranged from their families, what are tips would you give everyone for coping with complicated feelings during the holidays?

Make a plan, take control 

What are the main issues you will face? Loneliness, or overwhelm surrounded by too many people? Think through the days that might be particularly difficult and plan extra support and connection, or breaks from the busyness. One positive thing about the lockdown was the much broader possibility of meeting online for activities so you could plan catch ups with your university friends, or someone else who you feel safe with. If you want to escape/ learn/ relax online without a known group, you could look up things to join in with via Eventbrite, searching by your interests.

Set your intentions

Whether it’s sleep, how you eat, how much you drink, where exercise plays a role, or whether you engage in certain conversations, set your intentions in advance so you can feel more in control in the moment.

Identify your coping skills

What makes you feel better when you’re struggling? Taking a nap? Going for a walk alone or with someone else? If you’re staying on/ near the Canterbury or Medway campus, or nearby, you can sign up to Walking Buddy by midday on 16 December to be matched with another student who want to meet and go for a walk locally. Do you want to stay busy and make new friends at Kent? Check out the College and Community Life calendar for details of what’s on til the end of term and beyond, including games and puzzles you can borrow over the holidays. Does meditation help you? You could connect with the Mindfulness Society before the end of term, or check out some free mindfulness apps. Would curling up with a comfort book, or a pick me up playlist help? You can borrow from Templeman and Drill Hall Libraries, including fiction and digital media. Think about it in advance so you can have those things ready to reach for when it’s all getting a bit much.

Don’t compare – live your holiday the best way you can

Try not to compare your experiences, feelings and relationships to others’, and instead allow yourself to be present in your life without judgement.

Find support

It’s okay to not be okay during the holidays and reach out for support when you need it. Student Support and Wellbeing offices are open after the end of the university term until Tuesday 21st December, and then closed from Wednesday 22nd December until Tuesday 4th January 2022. During this closure, there are lots of emergency contacts available to support you wherever you find yourself during vacation.

Our mental health partner organisation, Spectrum Life, is available for crisis support throughout vacation. Spectrum Life provide.

For expert information tailored to students from Student Minds, check out the Christmas resources on the Student Space website, which provides also provides telephone, email, webchat and text support. There is more information about Christmas and mental health from the charity, Mind.

The charity Rees Foundation works to ensure that people leaving care have support networks in place, and are not left alone to tackle life’s challenges, and run some ‘Let’s Connect’ projects, connecting people with other members of the care experienced community.

There will be a  special Christmas Dinner on Christmas Day for care experienced young people aged 16-25 years old from all backgrounds and faiths, who are living in Folkestone or the surrounding areas of Ashford, Canterbury, Dover and Thanet. There will be a delicious meal in Folkestone, with a range of food choices with films, craft activities and a selection of gifts and goodies to take home, and transport provided to and from the venue. If you’d like to take part, email Rachel or Tilly at Student Support and Wellbeing by 14th December (R.Levy@kent.ac.uk / T.Fisher@kent.ac.uk).

Hang in there, it’s temporary!

Whatever your vacation experience, remember that it won’t last forever. We’ll be posting on the Student Support and Wellbeing socials throughout vacation, so follow @UniKentSSW for more advice, information and community, and our expert mental health team will be back on the Kent campuses from 3rd January.

24/7 Support, even during vacation

University of Kent students wherever they are located can access free, 24/7 online support for issues around mental health and wellbeing via Togetherall, and online platform overseen by qualified therapists which recognised nationally through awards by the NHS and is a safe environment. Togetherall can provide peer talk therapies where members initiate or join forums on topics ranging from depression and anxiety to relationship issues, work stress, abuse, self-harm and eating disorders, improving motivation and self-awareness. There are also online courses which can be taken any time, and brief counselling providing immediate 24/7 support from Guides who are trained counsellors.

Our partner organisation Spectrum Life is available for in-the-moment emotional and practical support for emotional distress or concerns about your mental health during vacation. They offer online, text and telephone support from qualified counsellors and mental health professionals, and will work with you in getting initial support and help, and can liaise with University Student Support and Wellbeing when they are next available to continue supporting you. Telephone 0800 0318227 and press option 1, Text/WhatApp ‘Hi’ to +44 (0)7418 360780, or search for the Spectrum Life app from your app store and follow the log in instructions, using organisation code ud3Z2brH.


Written by Natalia Crisanti, Student Services staff, 22.11.22